Tuesday, September 05, 2017

TV Tuesday: The Last Tycoon

With the summer shows winding down, and the fall shows not yet starting, my husband and I were searching for something to fill in this in-between season (in addition to The Sinner, which we are still enjoying). Reluctantly, we agreed to try The Last Tycoon on Amazon Prime. I say reluctantly because neither of us usually enjoys period dramas (nope, never watched Downtown Abbey!), but the top-notch cast and rave reviews convinced us to give it a try. To our surprise, we are loving this wonderful show set in 1930's Hollywood and based on a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The great Kelsey Grammer stars as Pat Brady, head of Brady American, a smaller movie studio struggling to find a place among MGM and the other big studios. His partner and movie Golden Boy is Monroe Stahr, played by Matt Bomer (who my son and I loved in White Collar). Monroe has a magic touch with movies, instantly seeing what it would take to bring a film from mediocre to amazing. His personal life is tragic, though, as he lost his beloved wife, Minna, who was the studio's biggest star. Both Monroe and the studio have suffered from Minna's loss, and both are still trying to recover.

Pat Brady's young daughter, Celia, played by Lily Collins, is in love with Monroe and wants to be in the movie business, despite her father's admonitions to stay away from both. Monroe's luck seems to change when he meets a beautiful waitress at the local diner, Kathleen Moore, played by Dominique McElligott. Can he fall in love again? There are dozens of other plot lines winding through this entertaining show: new movies to be made, bad movies to be saved, affairs undertaken, and more, in a behind-the-scenes look at the 1930's movie industry. One plot revolves around the growing influence of the Nazis in Germany, which reaches even to Hollywood (where many of the studio employees, including Monroe, are Jewish).

Although both Grammer and Bomer are exemplary as the stars of this show, the entire (very large) cast is interesting and engaging to watch. There is a group of studio writers, struggling to do whatever Pat and Monroe tell them. One side plot involves Max Miner, played by Mark O'Brien, a young man from Oklahoma who is caring for his younger brother and sister in a Hooverville near the studio. Pat's wife, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, also plays a crucial role. And there are surprising guest stars, like Jennifer Beals playing Margo Taft, a legendary Hollywood star.

Although we are not big fans of period drama, the setting and period details here are intriguing and immersive. It's fun to see the cars, the clothing, and especially the movie sets. Amidst all the Hollywood glamour, viewers also see the business side of movie-making and the politics going on behind the scenes, plus the personal lives of all those involved.

Right from the first episode, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed this show. It is compelling and entertaining, filled with drama, humor, fun, and heartbreak. I see we only have one episode left; we will be sorry to leave this world behind. I hope there will be a season 2!

The Last Tycoon is an Amazon Prime original, so it is available only through Amazon. There are 9 episodes in the first season, and no word yet on whether there will be another season.




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